In Kösching Forest, a large forest to the north of Audi’s Ingolstadt plant, the Oak Forest project was launched five years ago. This is a large-scale, long-term experiment that will take place over a 100 year period. Its goal is to study the optimal conditions for tree growth and how to create biodiversity in response to changing climate conditions.
A mature oak forest stores a large amount of hydrocarbons and provides habitat for many types of animals and plants. It provides an ecosystem for hundreds of organisms. In addition, oaks are very resistant to climate conditions. “In our project, we want to find out how to optimally plant trees so that they bind hydrocarbons in the best possible way and create good conditions for achieving biological diversity,” explains Dr. Dagobert Achatz, Managing Director of the Audi Environmental Foundation, which is financing the scientific study related to the project.
The test areas are cultivated in a special layout based on preset GPS coordinates. The English oaks were placed in concentric circles known as Nelder circles – this makes it possible to study different stand densities within a small space. There are around 500 trees in each Nelder circle. The Bavarian State Forestry Service and the Chair for Forest Yield Science at the Technical University of Munich, which offered scientific support and analysis, were partners to the Audi Environmental Foundation in this project. A total of around 36,000 trees were planted in the test area.
In conducting the research project in Kösching Forest, the Audi Environmental Foundation has set a process spanning generations into motion. Trees grow slowly, and they live significantly longer than people. Therefore, sustainable handling of natural resources is a fundamental principle of the project. Together, the partners are assuming responsibility for assuring long-term preservation of the areas cultivated for the large-scale experiment over the next 100 years.
Since the pilot project was conducted in Ingolstadt, thousands of additional trees have been planted. Around 29,000 of them were planted in two areas near the Audi plant in Győr, Hungary, and 10,000 near the Neckarsulm site. In the summer of 2011, an oak forest was cultivated in Italy near Sant’Agata Bolognese, the home of Audi subsidiary Lamborghini, followed by a planting campaign in Belgium near the Brussels site. Over 90,000 new trees have been planted so far in the course of the research project – and the goal is to plant even more.